Diabetes and Blurry Vision: When to Call Your Eye Doctor
You may have heard about the connection between diabetes and blurry vision. Did you know that blurry vision is one of the first symptoms some people with undiagnosed diabetes notice?
To understand why it helps to first get a little bit of information about some of the ways that diabetes impacts the eyes.
Please understand that human health, including visual health, is complicated and requires individual medical attention. This post is not a substitute for professional care. We hope the information empowers you to make good choices and also helps you better understand some of the symptoms we hope all our patients watch for.
If you experience any new, changing, or unresolved symptoms, please contact your doctor or eye doctor for an appointment.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Blurry Vision
Most likely, you have heard of diabetes. It is a metabolic disease when the human body can’t produce any or enough insulin or isn’t able to use insulin efficiently enough.
Your body needs insulin to break down the glucose that your cells use as fuel. If you have enough insulin, then a person can develop hyperglycemia, which is when sugar builds up in the blood since the insulin isn’t breaking it down.
Hyperglycemia is potentially damaging to all the cells in the body, including those in the eyes. People are often surprised to learn that blurry vision is often one of the earliest noticeable signs of diabetes.
The blurriness is caused by fluids leaking into the eye and causing it to change shape, which makes it harder to focus. Some people who are diagnosed with diabetes also experience this when adapting to a new insulin medication dose.
How Diabetes Can Impact the Eyes
Diabetic retinopathy describes retinal disorders that are caused by diabetes, including proliferative retinopathy and macular edema.
Proliferative retinopathy refers to a condition where blood vessels leak into the corner of the eye. Macular edema happens when leaking fluid causes the macula to swell.
Glaucoma can also cause blurry vision, and diabetes increases the risk for it. Pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve. In the earliest phases, there often are not any noticeable symptoms, which are why regular screening examinations are so important. Here are a few symptoms to watch for between screening examinations:
- Halos around lights
- Eyes that look redder
- Feelings of nausea or even vomiting
- Decreased peripheral vision
- Eye pain
Diabetes also increased the risk for cataracts, and blurry vision is also one of the first symptoms.
As described, there are multiple ways that diabetes can cause blurry vision, but not all blurry vision is the result of diabetes. Other causes include:
- Low blood pressure
- Nearsightedness or myopia
- Dry eye
- A reaction to some prescription drugs
- Injury to the eye or infection
- Inflammation in the eye
- Digital eye strain from too much time at a computer
- Immune system diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus
If you have an unexplained blurry vision, contact your eye doctor.
This also happens to be just one of many reasons why annual eye examinations are so crucial for many patients. Be sure to follow the recommended frequency of examinations for your age group or according to your doctor or optometrists’ recommendations.
The American Diabetes Association offers specific eye care and screening guidelines for people who are diagnosed with diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: within five years of diagnosis have a full dilated eye exam
- Type 2 diabetes: Have a complete eye examination soon after a new diagnosis
- If pregnant or trying to conceive: Have a dilated eye exam right away if you haven’t had one yet.
If you are diagnosed with high blood sugar or diabetes, and lifestyle choices that can help normalize and regulate blood sugar issues can help. Of course, this depends on the type of diabetes. But be sure to follow your prescribed monitoring and treatment plan.
Regular exercise, physical activity, and dietary changes can all help manage or prevent some blood sugar and diabetes issues. Eat vegetables like leafy greens and fruits daily. Healthy fats like Omega-3 are also good for the body and the eyes.
People sometimes find it surprising that the standard health advice to be active most days and to eat a diet low in sugar and simple carbohydrates is as good for the eyes as it is for the waistline.
High blood pressure or hypertension also can cause blurry vision, so any lifestyle choices that prevent or treat hypertension also help promote clear vision and eye health.
While this may seem like a random suggestion, we also advise you to wear sunglasses offering full UV protection when you are outside. Even without diabetes, the sun’s rays are usually one of the top causes of premature eye damage and aging. If you add complications of diabetes on top, it is even more crucial to protect the eyes as much as possible. Most of our patients find they prefer wearing sunglasses when working, playing, or relaxing outside once they get used to them.
Finally, keeping current with all your “routine” medical and visual examinations is part of a healthy lifestyle.
When to Call Your Eye Doctor
As you can see, there are many ways that diabetes can harm your vision. If you have diabetes and blurry vision, then please make an appointment with your eye doctor. The earlier the treatment and diagnosis, the better your vision and overall health can be protected.
If you have prediabetes or diabetes and experience new or increased blurry vision, contact both your primary care physician and your eye doctor. Diabetes can affect your entire body.
We hope this answered your questions about diabetes and blurry vision. Often people find the connection in diabetes and blurry vision surprising until they understand why.
As with any visual health issue, early diagnosis usually results in the best chance for preventive or corrective treatment. An annual comprehensive vision examination is essential. Charlotte-area residents trust their eye care needs to Piedmont Eye Care. Contact us today to make an appointment.